Last month’s inaugural Job Vacancy and Wages Survey (JVWS) release by Statistics Canada – which the agency emphasises was undertaken on behalf of Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC) – raised more questions than it seemed to answer. When initially contacted for comment, Statscan indicated it would be releasing more data by the end of September. That data, along with additional feedback provided by the agency, points to problems with the survey. It’s worth mentioning that ESDC was the source of the now infamous Kijiji jobs report – because the JVWS bears a striking resemblance to it.
Making waves in his first speech after taking office in 2009, outgoing US Attorney General Eric Holder then described his country as a “nation of cowards” afraid to confront racial issues. While the US had made remarkable progress on civil rights in the latter half of the twentieth century, election of a biracial president aside, there’s evidence to suggest it has recently regressed. There are anecdotes, like recent incidents in Detroit, Michigan and Ferguson, Missouri. But there are also race-based statistics collected, compiled and published by various US government agencies, from Justice to Labor to even the Federal Reserve.
If fear of confronting race is cowardice, what does one call fear of even asking about it? Because that’s where Canada is at the moment.
How the labour movement has failed
Rachel Decoste, Huffington Post Canada September 2, 2014
Kudos to Rachel for her thoughtful and informative critique of the Canadian labour movement’s historical under-representation of racial minorities. It’s actually more cleverly written than it first appears (and it’s pretty clever as-is); the embedded web links make some interesting implicit connections.
One can’t have an economics page without commenting on this book, apparently. Its recently published English edition, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, was a US best-seller – a remarkable feat for a hefty econ tome.
For those who haven’t read it and/or have no intention of doing so, The Economist has taken to reviewing it in parts (of which there are four) for subscribers. It’s that important. The critique of Capital‘s conclusion is noteworthy:
If the most likely outcome of the trends Mr Piketty describes is that somewhere down the line a left-of-centre government is elected and passes higher top income-tax rates, higher estate-tax rates and pension reforms, and that defuses the crisis, well, that puts the rest of the book in perspective. If the most likely outcome is revolution, well, that does too. And while it would be absurd to expect Mr Piketty to say definitely whether one possibility or another is bound to occur, I don’t think it’s asking too much, given the ambition of the rest of the book, to think we ought to be given some sense of his view on how social and political movements generally evolve in response to widening inequality, and how that evolution tends to be reflected in policy. What good is it to suggest utopian ideas about how to fix these problems without at least gesturing toward the political mechanisms needed to bring them about?
The topic of capital and wealth distribution precludes separating the political from the economic analysis – which, ironically, is the point of contention between Capital and Kapital. As Marx succinctly put it (prior to Kapital): Although theoretically the former is superior to the latter, in actual fact politics has become the serf of financial power.
In noting that the post-World-War periods during which income inequality declined were an aberration rather than proof that capitalism (as we’ve come to know it) optimally (re)distributes wealth, Piketty effectively supports Marx’s central premise that it doesn’t.
And it’s not just Piketty who (despite not conceding the point) has recently come to the uncomfortable realisation perhaps Marx was right.
However, Piketty (among others) ignores the obvious correlation between capital ownership and political influence by suggesting policy makers can address widening inequality by simply hiking taxes on capital wealth. Bill C-23, the Canadian ‘Fair’ Elections Act, and related recent events in the US speak to the obvious omission.
Picketty also ignores capital flight, a problem his home country of France faced only a few short years ago. And that was before it elected a Socialist government and a famed French actor made it headline news.
Volkswagen Vote is Defeat for Labor in South
Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times February 14, 2014
That looks comfy, no?
Major defeat for decimated US labor union
On Valentine’s Day, the rejection by the Chattanooga, TN Volkswagen workers surely was a heart-breaker for the United Auto Workers (UAW). Not only did the employer remain impartial, but VW actually wanted the workers unionised.
The UAW had been trying to organise the VW plant for two years. In the US Midwest and Northeast, home to what’s left of major domestic automakers’ US operations, UAW membership had plummeted. In 1979, the union claimed 1,530,000 members; in 2010 they counted just 355,000. It was desperate for a foothold in the South, where Japanese and German automakers have located their (to date) non-unionised US operations.
The UAW drop in membership accelerated following the Great Recession. Interest in membership further eroded as the union threw young members and future workers under the bus during auto sector bailout negotiations. As The New York Times succinctly put it in the wake of the recent debacle, Sweetheart Deals Hurt Labor.